Alcohol Sponsorships and Athlete Endorsements in Sports

2020 was an eventful year to say the least. Though there were not many live sporting events with fans in stands, many throughout the alcohol industry were able to build upon longstanding sports sponsorships. 

With most of the population resigned to staying indoors, many alcohol brands were intent on sponsoring prominent athletes, particularly those in the United States. As the majority of the world’s largest beer companies headquartered throughout North America, it presented an opportunity for athletes to showcase their marketing abilities and personalities.

Here are the top 10 athlete alcohol endorsements in terms of social following:

10. Eric Fisher | NFL | Bud Light

Instagram Following: 89,000

Twitter Following: 44000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 133,000

The Super Bowl champion was one of a handful of active players in the National Football League to sign a sponsorship deal with Bud Light. The lineman was fined $14,037 for smashing two Bud Lights over his head during the Chiefs win over the Houston Texas in the playoffs. It definitely caught the beer brand’s attention as they promptly donated the amount of the fine to a charity of Fisher’s choice.

9. CJ Mosley | NFL | Sam Adams

Twitter Following: 156,000

Instagram Following: 152,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 308,000

The New York Jets linebacker teamed up with Sam Adams for a product endorsement in April 2020 in an effort to support local restaurants throughout the New England area impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

8. Marcus Peters | NFL | Bud Light

Instagram Following: 261,000

Twitter Following: 79,000

Facebook Following: 7,000

Total Following: 347,000

Peters forged an alcohol sponsorship with the beer company through a bit of excessive celebration. After a game-clinching play in Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season, Peters jumped into the stands and shotgunned a beer with fans. He was promptly fined $14,037.

And yet his boldness led to an endorsement deal with the alcohol brand. Peters has promoted the #InHouseChallenge, daring fans of legal drinking age to complete 20 push-ups, 20 mountain climbers, and 20 Russian twists for a chance to win Bud Light.

7. J.D. Martinez | MLB | Anheuser-Busch InBev

Instagram Following: 327,000

Twitter Following: 145,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 472,000

The Major League Baseball outfielder has proudly represented a nice array of Anheuser-Busch InBev products throughout his playing career. On his social media, he has posted victory celebrations as he is being doused with numerous cans of Bud Light. More recently, in a collaboration with Modelo, he opened up to The Players Tribune about his journey to the big leagues and how his fighting spirit helped to keep him on top.

6. Gardner Minshew II | NFL | Bud Light

Instagram Following: 559,000

Twitter Following: 130,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 689,000

Minshew’s flamboyant personality lends perfectly to Bud Light’s demographic and target audience. The Jacksonville quarterback promoted the #InHouseChallenge near the start of quarantine in an effort to have fans show off their QB skills for a chance to win.

But the boldness didn’t stop there. Playing off of his relatively average rankings (22nd quarterback, 162nd overall) within the fantasy football landscape, Minshew and Bud Light challenged, nay they dared, fans to draft Minshew with their first pick in their fantasy drafts. Complete with a throwback workout montage and a sweet mullet, Minshew made a compelling case on why fans should win a case…of beer.

5. Golden Tate | NFL | Bud Light

Instagram Following: 397,000

Twitter Following: 380,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 777,000

Some relationships happen organically.

Tate appeared on Bud Light’s radar back in February 2020. The beer brand was trying to recruit Joe Burrow as a spokesperson for their spoof “seven ounce bottles” after Burrow’s hand size was analyzed during the NFL Combine. Grabbing the opportunity by the bottleneck, Tate threw his hand in the spokesperson ring by uploading a video from 2018, which went viral at the time, where he can be seen chugging a beer adorned in an American flag jumpsuit.

Since then, it has been a budding relationship between the two. Tate immediately showcased his freshly stocked fridge full of Bud Lights upon commencement of the partnership. Months later, he followed that up with the promotion of the Bud Light Home Sports League and the creation of the #InHouseChallenge. The receiver even had a bit of self-deprecation and light-hearted fun, spoofing the brand’s recent commercial and capturing the mood of Giants fans everywhere after Big Blue was officially eliminated from postseason contention.

4. Dominick Cruz | UFC | Modelo

Instagram Following: 1.1 million

Twitter Following: 445,000

Facebook Following: 396,000

Total Following: 1.9 million

Cruz teamed up with Modelo to properly celebrate Cinco De Mayo 2020 and show much needed support to first responders. For every public post that incorporated the hashtag #CincUp on May 5th, Modelo would donate $1 (up to $500k) to #FirstRespondersFirst in order to provide resources to frontline workers.

3. Nico Rosberg | Formula 1 | Heineken

Facebook Following: 2.3 million

Twitter Following: 2.3 million

Instagram Following: 1.6 million

Total Following: 6.2 million

You could say that the Rosberg family is quite good at driving as both Nico Rosberg and his father Keke Rosberg can lay claim as Formula 1 World Champions. Last year, the two were tabbed for an alcohol ad with Heineken in promotion of their non-alcoholic beverage Heineken 0.0. The spot centered around safe driving with the key takeaway being that “the better driver abstains from alcohol consumption.”

2. Dwayne Wade | NBA (retired) | Budweiser

Facebook Following: 12.3 million

Twitter Following: 9.4 million

Instagram Following: 7.1 million

Total Following: 38.8 million

The 3x NBA Finals champion has had his hand in many Budweiser campaigns. For starters, Wade is the co-founder of Budweiser Zero. Designed with athletes in mind, the living Miami Heat legend has further utilized the new product as a platform to champion social justice. 

Earlier this year, Wade met with Budweiser Senior Brewmaster Natalie Johnson about how the brand can help increase diversity throughout the beverage industry. Together, the pair established the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Budweiser Natalie Johnson Scholarship Program in order to provide 25 black college students with annual scholarships within the alcohol industry. In addition, 5 of those students will gain experience as interns within Anheuser-Busch’s Brewery Trainee Program.

And who could forget the wonderfully emotional commercial that the brand ran amid Wade’s retirement in 2019. The spot featured five everyday people from outside the basketball world that were personally touched by Wade’s generosity off the court.

1. Lionel Messi | La Liga | Budweiser

Instagram Following: 175 million

Facebook Following: 101.8 million

Twitter Following: N/A

Total Following: 276.8 million

Messi and Budweiser recently celebrated the soccer icon’s achievement of scoring more goals for one club (644) than any other player in history. The team of Budweiser marketers collaborated on a unique project, sending beers to every single goalkeeper that Messi has ever scored on during his time with FC Barcelona. Each bottle was numbered to commemorate the exact goal that Messi put between the posts. The goalkeepers then recorded videos praising the supreme talent that Messi is. 

This activation comes on the heels of the #KingofFootball inking a three-year sponsorship with the alcohol company. The deal kicked off with producing limited-edition Messi-branded bottles being distributed throughout much of the Eastern part of the world.

The  social following from the athletes listed above yield a combined 326+ million audience. The fans of these athletes make up a solid portion of those that partake in the occasional (or frequent) adult beverage. It will be interesting to see how alcohol brands continue to tap these athletes for future sports sponsorships down the road.

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